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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
But for the longest time I was not interested in playing by ear or developing my ear because I could - can - play far more complex pieces from a score than I ever could by trying to improvise on my own... In any case, I am not motivated by wanting to play by ear... I am motivated by wanting add more styles (and in particular, more explicit control of chords and ability play in a more jazzy style) to my current piano skill set.

Hi ShiroKuro. What you write sounds a lot like what I've gone through as well. I wish I had the knowledge of chords and voicings to allow me to play blues and jazz from a lead sheet, or just improvise and have it sound good. I tried lessons for a short time with a couple different blues and jazz teachers, but each time I ran into issues similar to what you're describing. I found I just didn't have the patience to work on chord progressions and voicings if I wasn't also learning a piece that I wanted to play. I remember working through Autumn Leaves in the Realbook with the jazz teacher, and discovering how it utilized the circle of fifths. That was kind of cool, and I got to where I could hit the right chords off the lead sheet, and even create a few simple riffs and fills from the chords. But the result was a super simple version of the tune that I would never want to listen to. If I ever did learn Autumn Leaves, the version below is what I would want to play. However, there is no way I could come up with an arrangement like this one, much less improvise it on the spot as he is doing. I figured that even with a year of intense study of jazz voicings, I may come up with a better version of the piece than I had, but it would never be something like this.

Although I would love to learn the skills needed for jazz and blues improv, I've realized that the process of learning these skills simply do not hold my attention. Maybe I am just lazy, I don't know. But when I have the sheet music of an arrangement I love, I can practice for hours. After a few minutes with a lead sheet and the circle of fifths, I start to fall asleep. So for now anyway, I must content myself with learning jazz and blues pieces from sheet music just as I do with classical. After I have the notes down, I do enjoy jazzing it up and exploring different timings and rhythm. I know I will never become a jazz musician this way, and in a perfect world, I would have the patience to learn jazz voicings. But in the imperfect world that is my musical brain, learning pieces via sheet music is all I can realistically do.

So ShiroKuro, I have for now abandoned my lead sheets and instead, find piano performances on YouTube that I like and want to learn, then search for the sheet music or have it transcribed. Hopefully your appetite for learning beyond the sheet music is greater than my own. Maybe one day I can develop that interest as well. Good luck!


Last edited by Emery Wang; 12/27/21 08:47 PM.

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Emery, interesting and relatable comments!!

One of my goals in having a better understanding of chords etc is to be able to sightread jazzy pieces, esp. those with more complex arrangements (and/or learn to play such pieces more quickly).

I just started with two books from this series:
http://www.johnkember.com/sdxjpp.htm

(ETA, this series was recommended in this thread, I believe, by ClsscLib, thank you for the recommendation!)

They're interesting because each song has two versions: first, a version with the vocal melody on the top line (and the lyrics), and then the piano grand staff with chord symbols and notation in block chords either in whole notes or two quarter notes. The idea is to learn the chords and the changes, and you can also use this score like a lead sheet, playing the melody in RH and chords in LH. Or you could sing and play the piano notation as written.

The second version of the song is a fully notated solo arrangement of the song.

Since I got the books (on Christmas, so only two days now!) I've been playing the two versions of a Cole Porter song, first I go through the chord version, and then sort of sightread the fully notated version. It's clearly a useful pedagogical exercise, and also musically fun!

I'll see how it goes.

But like you, I can do so much more with a fully notated score, I doubt that will change. IOW I don't see myself suddenly becoming a proficient improviser, but again, hopefully these jazz approaches will benefit me overall. smile

Last edited by ShiroKuro; 12/28/21 12:04 PM.

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That's awesome SK. Seems you have more patience for these sorts of exercises than me. I believe you can learn a lot by really going through these.

Going back to your OP, I see you're working on Fly Me to the Moon. Funny, but this is the first jazz number I ever tried working on, and it's also a Jonny May arrangement. Below is a sample of the first page. I looked at the link you posted. My problem is I never see myself going from those chords to an arrangement like this. Not only do I not have the patience to learn enough jazz theory to be able to make such an arrangement, I highly doubt I'd get there even if I did. I just don't seem to have the knack for it. I think my fascination with the piano is more the playing of it, rather than theory and composition. I was the same way as a visual artist: I hated the sketching phase and wasn't very good at it, but loved the finishing phase. Maybe my brain is wired to prefer the craft of doing something more so than the art, if that makes sense. But, I wish I had the patience to do what you are doing. Good luck. Maybe we'll see you playing a gig in a smoky jazz lounge one day!

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Last edited by Emery Wang; 12/28/21 01:33 PM.

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Coming back to this a little late, but I wanted to follow up on this:

Quote
My problem is I never see myself going from those chords to an arrangement like this. Not only do I not have the patience to learn enough jazz theory to be able to make such an arrangement, I highly doubt I'd get there even if I did.

I also don't see myself being able to improvise to anywhere close to the level of what I can play when playing from a fully notated score. And that's ok.

But I see this as a different way to improve my overall playing, and esp. to improve my ability to more quickly learn and play fully notated scores that are more jazzy.

I spent a lot of time playing through the classical pieces in the Music for Millions (MfM) series, these are pieces that are well below my playing ability. But the work I did made a huge, HUGE improvement on my sightreading and helped me reduce the time it takes to learn new music quite significantly.

What that MfM work did for me was get me to play through tons of music "thoughts" and when I return to the music I regularly play (Einaudi, Sakamoto, Winston, Nevue) it felt, and was easier.

Well, there's a whole selection of music I have that is more interesting rhythmically, and that has more complex chords etc.

I see working through the Richards jazz methods books and the Kember books as doing the same thing for me that I got from MfM, just more jazz/popular style of playing.

If that makes sense.

I guess it's a long-winded way of saying, my goal with the jazz/chord/lead sheets is not to magically get to the point where I don' use sheet music, but rather it's another pedagogical tool to help me on my journey to be able to more easily play more and more music....

I feel like this doesn't quite make sense, so I'll stop here! whome


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BTW I took photos of one of the scores in the Kember book (for a discussion in the Non-classical forum), so I thought I'd put those photos here as well, in case anyone wants to see what we're talking about.

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If you want to develop your ability to play lead sheets, stop dependence on the fully notated score as soon as possible.

I liked the fly me to the moon video there, and agree would be good resource. But there is no improvisation or playing by ear involved really. A little maybe to see exactly (or not so exactly) what she is doing in the LH, but she also demonstrates and is just walking notes within the chords which are also given. Once she has a nice arrangement, it hardly ever changes so no real improvisation either. Though, I know we call it that.

Use your ear, to play what you play better. It isn't to figure out everything on the fly all the time. Playing by lead sheets is still generally very scripted.

Just thinking, you need to dive right in though, because it is a different way of looking at the same thing, so you can't really hang on to the otherway if you want to really improve.

Last edited by Greener; 12/31/21 03:44 PM.
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Originally Posted by Greener
If you want to develop your ability to play lead sheets, stop dependence on the fully notated score as soon as possible.
...
I liked the fly me to the moon video there, and agree would be good resource. But there is no improvisation or playing by ear involved really.

I literally was just posting this over in the non-classical forum. It's mostly relevant, so I'll sort of C&P myself.

I know this is almost like blasphemy to some, but I have zero interest in playing by ear. I know this is almost like blasphemy to some, but I don't intend to give up my dependence on the score.

whome

In all seriousness... as I've been playing through the Richards Beginning Jazz Piano book and then more recently the Kember books (photos above), I have refined how I understand my goal -- which mainly is just to get better at playing more jazzy styles. I'll work with lead sheets and work on understand chords because it's foundational, not because I eventually want to play by ear or improvise. And I want to be more comfortable with interesting chords and lead sheets not so I can seriously play from lead sheets or by ear, but rather so that I can get better at playing from the score for music that's more jazzy/popular and that has more interesting rhythms.

I'm more like Emery in that regard.

There is so much amazing music available in notated form. I want to get better at playing music that right now takes me too long to learn, and it seems to me that what's missing is my level of familiarity with more complex chords and voicings, things that show up especially in LH parts. And then also more rhythmical-ness...

Last edited by ShiroKuro; 12/31/21 03:55 PM.

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Fair enough, ShiroKuro and best of luck to you in this pursuit.

I would just like to say though, if only one more time for the record ... playing by lead sheets does not imply you need to be a great ear player or a great improvisor. Unfortunately though, it seems to have this mystique about it, which I am afraid has scared many people away unnecessarily.

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